Nigerian armed forces have killed over 200 members of Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) including five of their commanders in joint air and ground operations.
According to Daily Trust, a top military source, people with insider knowledge of happenings in the North East and locals said that the terrorists were neutralised in some of their hideouts near Bama in the central part of Borno State.
They said that ground troops and the Nigeria Air Force had conducted operations between Thursday and Friday, September 1 and 2 on many locations infested by ISWAP terrorists.
The sources said that the operations had yielded results as over 200 fighters have been killed and over 70 who fled were drowned while trying to cross a river.
‘How commanders, others were killed’
Our sources said the terrorists were struck severally for over 48 hours, hence the successes recorded by the military.
“It was an operation conducted by the Air Force component of the military and troops of 199 special forces and 222 battalions,” a military operative said.
“They targeted the terrorists’ hideouts in Gabchari, Sheruri, Mantari and Mallum Masari,” he said. Another military source said, “In a well-planned and coordinated attack by aircraft and ground troops, terrorists’ locations at Gabchari near Bama were truck severally and mopped up after the terrorists were observed fleeing upon sighting ground troops.
“Subsequently, aircraft under the Air Component were immediately scrambled to provide close air support (CAS) and engage the terrorists in successive passes. The strikes were deemed successful as lifeless bodies of terrorists were observed around the points of impact.
“This has also been collaborated by local sources who have expressed delight with the increased rate on attacks on terrorists and their enclaves, a situation that has allowed some of them to return to their homes and tend to their farms.
“Intel from various sources also indicated that over 200 terrorists were neutralized by the joint efforts of both air and ground troops including five ISWAP commanders. After the air strikes, the aircraft maintained close air support on the withdrawing troops until they returned back to base,” he said.
Even though he did not give the actual number of terrorists killed, NAF Spokesperson, Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet said that the successful strikes and ground attacks around Bama were classical examples of the centrality of jointness as a critical factor in operational success.
“But we aren’t carried away with this success as we shall continue to take the fight to the enemy until they lay down their arms,” he said.
It was learnt that the villages attacked by the military are located on the fringes of Sambisa forest.
Five commanders eliminated
Zagazola Makama, a counter-insurgency expert and security analyst in Lake Chad said that an early damage assessment revealed that the successful operation led to the elimination of high-ranking commanders including Abou Hauwa (Munzir), Amir Shettima, Akura Buri(Nakif), Abou Zainab, Abou Idris and their Fighters.
He said that the ground troops had during the raid, stormed a hideout of the terrorists in Gafchari, where they engaged the troops in a gun battle leading to the killing of over 30 fighters while others escaped with bullet wounds.
“Similar strikes were also undertaken at Sheruri when the combat aircraft attacked another location of fighters deployed to stage an ambush against own ground troops,” the source said.
“In Gaizuwa, the troops destroyed two vehicles and the home of Abou Iklilima which used to be hideouts to insurgent leaders. Other makeshift tents and properties belonging to terrorists were also destroyed.
“Additional 9 bodies who died as a result of bullet wounds were recovered around the bushes in Gaizuwa, among them were two Boko Haram Commanders including; Abou Zainab, Abou Idris.”
A community leader in Bama said they saw fighter jets conducting air interdiction missions against the insurgents which resulted in neutralising dozens of fighters.
“It was evidently a successful mission and we hope our military operatives would continue to succeed,” he said.
The aforementioned publication had reported on Sunday that over 70 suspected terrorists drowned in a river following air bombardment by the military.
It was gathered that military operatives in collaboration with Civilian Joint Task Force (JTF) had earlier killed over 20 members of Boko Haram insurgents in Sheruri village of Bama LGA on Thursday.
Sources said that after the Sheruri attack, the escapees drowned in a river around Dipchari village of Bama LGA on Friday.
“This morning (Saturday) around 8:30 am, they conducted a funeral for more than 50 of their fighters at Dipchari village and they continue with the search for the remaining terrorists,” one of them said.
ISWAP, Boko Haram using North East as training ground
An intelligent source told the Daily Trust yesterday that members of ISWAP and Boko Haram were using many cells in the northern, southern and central parts of Borno as training grounds.
“The truth is that they have been adequately subdued in their former stronghold along the Lake Chad region and therefore unable to carry out massive attacks.
“If you analyse happenings in the last couple of months, they had shifted their operations to the northwestern states of Kaduna, Katsina and Zamfara. Of course, this was before the recent increase in the military operations in the region.
“That notwithstanding, ISWAP and Boko Haram still find it easier to train their recruits around Borno and this is for the obvious reasons of manoeuvrability and access to weapons from neighbouring countries.
“There is a need for the military to sustain the tempo of uprooting the training camps while sister agencies like Customs and Immigrations should increase surveillance around our borders to reduce arms proliferation so that we can bring an end to their campaign against the Nigerian state. We have been fighting this war for long and this is the time to recover,” he said.